Life and Activities of Capt. John Underhill
Edited from "Underhill Genealogy," by Jossephine C. Frost (Mrs. Samuel Knapp Frost) Brooklyn, NY Vol. 1
Published Privately by Myron C. Taylor in the interests of The Underhill Society of America, 1932

     The English Ancestry of Capt. John Underhill has been established back to and including Hugh Underhill, keeper of the wardrobe to Queen Elizabeth in Greenwich Palace, examined, and passed, by the College of Arms in London and traced to armigerous Underhills of Ettington in Warkickshire and their predecessors of the thirteenth century. As to the year of his birth, legend varies between 1597 and 1600; as to place, tradition locates it at Baginton, near Kenilworth (Killingworth) in Warwickshire.
     The mother of Capt. John Underhill was a widow living in Holland in 1618, and it should be conceded that he was residing there with her at that time, but no authentic evidence is found concerning him until Nov.28, 1628, on which date the Betrothal Records of Gorinchem and the Hague testify to his betrothal to Heylken, daughter of Willem de Hooch of the former place and in each entry he is described as a Cadet in the Guard of the Prince of Orange. As a sequel to those entries, the marriage of the couple on December 12, 1628, is recorded in the records of the Kloosterkerk at The Hague. He makes one other appearance in the Dutch records there on Feb.26, 1630, when he signs a document stating his acceptance of the division of his wife's father's estate.
     Capt. John Underhill is first mentioned in New England, when, on Aug.27, 1630, he joined the first church. In Vol.11. of this publication the editor states he was first mentioned Sept 7, 1630, but she had not at that time seen the First Church Records. Just when he arrived in New England is not definitely known but that he came with Winthrop is generally conceded and it is stated in Vol.11. of The Life and Letters of John Winthrop that he (Winthrop) sailed from England April 8, 1630.
 Helena, wife of Capt John Underhill, did not join the church until 15, 10 mo., 1633, probably because of her inability to speak the English language and on the 29, 10 mo., 1633, their maid, Margery Hinds, became a member.
     On Sept 7, 1630, the Court of Assistants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony met in Charlestown and authorized Underhill be provided with food, money and house rent as the chief military authority of the Colony with Daniel Patrick, who shared the fifty pounds maintenance. He was made Captain before May 18, 1631, and as such was expected to attend Governor Winthrop on his official visits, to arrest notable offenders and locate with others, convenient places for forts on Castle Island, Charlestown and Dorchester. In May 1634 he was elected Deputy to the General Court and on 7 mo. 1 day, 1634 is listed one of Boston's Selectmen.
 When he sailed for England in November, 1634, the ostensible reason given by Winthrop was that he "had leave to visit his friends in Holland," but circumstantial evidence indicates that his real mission was to secure considerable additions to the warlike stores of the colony in view of the fact that armed conflict with England was anticipated. He did, at any rate, procure a generous supply of gun-powder from one friend of the colony; and had returned to Boston before September, 1635. During the ensuing winter he was empowered by the General Court to impress labor for the erection of forts and to direct the distribution of ordnance to various vulnerable places on the coast and one of the other specific duties assigned him was the arrest of his friend, Roger Williams, who had taken refuge in Salem, but when the officers arrived there he had fled to more congenial shores to the south to escape punishment by the Puritans for his liberal religious views and became the founder of the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
     In August, 1636, Capt. John took a prominent part in the punitive expedition to Block Island and he was the eleventh signer on the original roll of membership of The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston in 1637, although they did not receive their charter until 13 of 1 mo., 1638. On the 1 mo., 9 day, 1636/7, he was chosen Captain by the General Court "for the country's service" in view of the grave danger which threatened the colony from the Pequot Indians. He proceeded to Say-brook Fort and with Capt. John Mason, was the chief instrument in their complete destruction. However on 2 of 9 mo., 1637, he was discharged from further service but was to have a quarter's pay for a gratuity, but at this same meeting of the General Court he was censored for "putting his hand to a seditious writing," was disfranchised, put from the Captain's place and disarmed. The "seditious writing" was the signing of a petition in favor of Rev. John Wheelwright who had given great offence by a liberal Fast-Day sermon and sentenced to be banished.
     Early in 1638, Capt. John sailed for England and on March 24 was in negotiation with the Committee of Providence Island to enter the service of the company in a military capacity. On April 26 his pamphlet, "Newes from America," was entered at Stationers' Hall, London. He had returned to Boston by August first for on that day he sold his house and land there but on the 6 of 7 mo., 1638, the General Court decreed his banishment. He followed Rev. Wheelwright to the neighborhood of Dover and Exeter and ere long was elected Governor of that community, a post he occupied until March; 1640. During the short period of his stay there he was seeking a new abode, for on Sept. 8, 1639, as Governor John Underhill, he asked permission to dwell with the Dutch in New Amsterdam. It was granted him but he did not abide in that neighborhood until several years later. 
     In 1640 he was excommunicated by the First Church of Boston, only to be shortly restored to its membership, it having been realized by Winthrop and his colleagues that his actions had been woefully misjudged. Towards the end of 1641, in view of disturbances at Dover and uncertainty as to his future, his thoughts again turned towards the Dutch and on Jan.16, 1642, he leased a plantation in  Flatlands, which it does not appear he occupied. At the instigation of the Church in Boston who fitted him out with a pinnace to remove himself and family, he was led to locate in Stamford and on the 5 of 2 mo., 1643, he was elected Deputy from there to the General Court of New Haven. By October of that year his services had been requisitioned by Director Kieft for aid against the Indians and in February of 1644 he was in chief command of the force which destroyed the Indian encampment near Greenwich. For those services Kieft made him two grants of land, one being Meuteleers Island, in later years known as Bergen Island and the other a plot on Manhattan Island now occupied by Trinity Church-yard, on which land he took up his abode prior to May 25, 1644. On May 24, 1645, he was elected a member of the Council of New Amsterdam and the same year one of the Eight Men who were elected to adopt measures against the Indians. The Bergen Island property did not come into his possession until May 14, 1646. There is every evidence that he expected to make that place his permanent home, but when Director Stuyvesant came into power, he appointed him Sheriff of Flushing, April 27, 1648, and he removed to that town where he was elected a Magistrate in 1651 and served as such in 1652, but in April, 1653, on learning that the Dutch were plotting with the Indians to attack the English, his relations with Director Stuyvesant became strained and he was imprisoned in New Amsterdam for hoisting the Parliamentary colors and "addressing a seditious paper to the people of Long Island." His incarceration was of short duration and the charges against him were dismissed, the natural outcome of which was that he left Flushing for Newport, R. I., where he offered his services to the Commissioners of the United Colonies in "the common cause of England against the Dutch," and on May 19, 1653, the General Assembly of Rhode Island commissioned him Commander-in-Chief on land with full power to act On June 27, 1653, he seized the Dutch post between Saybrook and Hartford for the English, with permission of the General Court of Hartford. This fort, known as The House of Hope, had long hampered the development of Hartford and had been fortified by the Dutch in 1641. Peace was declared in 1654 and during the short period affecting the foregoing events he had taken up his residence in Southold, L. I., certainly residing there in March of that year and owning property located partially where the Savings Bank now stands. In 1658 his first wife, Helena, died there and there has recently been erected to her memory a small slate stone, to harmonize with those of the pioneers still standing in the Presbyterian Cemetery in that place.  * (see notation regarding this passage at the end) Early in the following year he married Elizabeth, daughter of Lieut. Robert and Elizabeth (Fownes-Winthrop) Feake, and sold his property in Southold on April 1st to Thomas Moore. In August of that year he was a resident of Setauket, otherwise known as Cromwell's Bay. Elizabeth Fownes Winthrop was a cousin and widow of Henry Winthrop, son of Governor John Winthrop, said Henry losing his life by drowning shortly after his arrival in New England. Just when Capt. John Underhill located in Oyster Bay is not definitely known, but probably in 1661. Certain it is, the inhabitants there on March 1, 1664/5 appointed him a delegate from that place to the Convention in Hempstead where a body of laws and ordinances for the future government of the Province were promulgated, which continued the laws of the Colony until October, 1683. On April 22, 1665, he was appointed Surveyor of Customs for Long Island and later High Constable and Under Sheriff of the North Riding of Yorkshire on Long Island, by "His Highness the Duke of York." Besides being the intermediary between the colonists and Governor Nicolls with reference to taxation and other matters, the Matinecock Indians especially referred to him as their chief advisor and on Oct. 1, 1666, he presented a petition on their behalf to the Court of Assizes. In recognition of those services they conveyed to John Underhill one hundred and fifty acres of land, the original deed of which is now preserved in the custody of Myron C. Taylor, whose summer home stands on part of that allotment. Prior to April, 1667, Capt. John had been seeking the approval of the Governor for naming that territory Killingworth, to which he had acceded, even the Indian deed being dated "Killenworth," prior to the Governor's written consent. Sometime previous to March 14, 1666/7, Capt. John had asked relief from his military duties for on that date the Governor agreed writing, "by reason of of yor yeares & other cares that attend you, I do allow of your excuse and leave you to your owne Liberty." On Feb.24, 1668/9, Governor Lovelace wrote the inhabitants of Killingworth and Matinecock in reply to one received "by the hands of Captain Underhill," regarding the residents of those places requesting independence of Hempstead, and this appears to be his last official act. He made his will in Killingworth and died there 21 of 7 mo., 1672, and was buried in what is now known as The Underhill Burying Ground, located in Locust Valley, L. I., being a part of the acreage presented to him by the Indians in 1667 and where an imposing monument marks his burial place. Close. by and on a part of the original Indian grant is "Killing-worth," the home of his best known living descendant, Myron C. Taylor.
     Numerous letters from Capt. John Underhill are preserved in the Winthrop Manuscript owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society and photostats of each one are in the possession of Myron C. Taylor, only two or three being used in this publication. Letters vainly sought by the editor were undoubtedly destroyed in Greenwich, Conn., or in Boston as per the following minute found among the many scraps of paper left by the Winthrop family. It reads as follows: "The eating teeth of time devours all things. A Hogshead of Ancient Papers of value, belonging to our family lost at Greenwich in New England; a barrell full of papers Burnt in a warehouse at Boston." The date is partially destroyed, only the last figure, "8," is readable.  The handwriting is of the period of the seventeenth or early eighteenth century.

The following relevant information was emailed to LIG by John Fitton -

* The below highlighted reference was to Elizabeth Fones-Winthrop-Feake not the daughter Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Fones-Winthrop-Feake was one of my 11th Great Grandmothers. She was quite notorious because after she was abandoned by her mad husband Robert Feake, she married William Hallet (after which Hallets Cove was named). Peter Stuyvesant granted her a divorce from Robert.

RE: "Early in the following year he married Elizabeth, daughter of Lieut. Robert and Elizabeth (Fownes-Winthrop) Feake, and sold his property in Southold on April 1st to Thomas Moore. In August of that year he was a resident of Setauket, otherwise known as Cromwell's Bay. Elizabeth Fownes Winthrop was a cousin and widow of Henry Winthrop, son of Governor John Winthrop, said Henry losing his life by drowning shortly after his arrival in New England.